Clearco co-founder Andrew D’Souza told TechCrunch that he has taken a step back from his role as the fintech company’s chief executive. Michele Romanow, the co-founder and chairman of Clearco, is now CEO of Clearco. D’Souza, meanwhile, has assumed the role of executive chairman and continues to be the company’s largest shareholder, he told TechCrunch.
The move comes seven years after D’Souza and Michele Romanow first launched the capital lender that aimed to disrupt venture capital with non-dilutive capital. Clearco is now valued at $2 billion.
Despite the executive chairman connotation, D’Souza maintains that he will continue to work full-time at Clearco and has no plans to strike out on his own. A majority of his role now involves working on acquisitions and strategic partnerships, executive search and investor communications.
“I’m in this as long as everybody still wants me,” D’Souza said. “Sometimes when founders move into executive chairman positions, it’s like a sunset and kind of exiting the company,” D’Souza later added. “In fact, I expect to be even more full-time and even more committed.”
The management shakeup comes nearly a year after the company switched from Clearbanc to Clearco and brought in Oak HC/FT and SoftBank Vision Fund as late-stage investors. Next, D’Souza said that “we are no longer just a provider of capital and [having] a kind of transactional relationship with our customers to really use the data, our network, the advice [and] capital to be a long-term partner. Last year, the company expanded to ten countries and deployed $3 billion in capital to founders.
Changing roles mean that another wave of change is about to hit the company, both personally and professionally. Prior to launching a fintech company, D’Souza and Romanow had a romantic relationship together – a reality that caught their attention, but also sparked some trepidation from investors, supposedly out of concern that a potential breakup would erupt. has an impact on the stability of the company.
During the pandemic, the two co-founders came to the conclusion that they wanted different things from life long term, but wanted to find a “productive way” to translate that into the business.
“We are no longer dating, we are no longer in a personal relationship, but we still care very much about each other,” D’Souza said. “So we’re not in the same place 24/7 anymore, which is the other reason why […] we kind of realized that we needed a decision-maker to really run the day-to-day business.
“We have a $2 billion baby,” Romanow added. “It was very easy when we were always in the same room – someone called one of us and got both of us.”
The co-founders said they weren’t against hiring another executive in the future. “Certainly, you know, having someone around the table who’s seen a much, much bigger scale would be a huge asset, and so I spend my time having conversations,” D’Souza said.
Strategically, D’Souza’s departure from the CEO position comes as Clearco begins to focus more on delivering financial results.
“For a company of our level of maturity, frankly, we built this company at a time when capital was cheap and growth was at all costs,” D’Souza said. “And now we’re entering a period where you’re balancing capital efficiency and growth – we have to start publishing forecasts and hitting those forecasts.”
He added, “These things come much more naturally to Michele and less naturally to me, and it was just going to be a CEO’s job as the company got more and more mature.”
“It’s a much better way for a business to operate, you want one decision maker so you don’t have to go to two people to get an answer, you want someone who is focused on the long market term, creating partnerships and talking to investors and doing these things for the long term. And we neglected [that] because we both had to make decisions,” D’Souza said.
Clearco’s intense launch frenzy over the past two years underscores some of the “grow at all costs” mindset that dominated startup sentiment amid the pandemic – but is now on the cusp. to change. In April 2020, Clearco launched ClearRunway to help SaaS founders secure non-dilutive capital repaid through revenue sharing agreements. A few months later, in July, it launched a way for founders to figure out how to rate their companies based on benchmark data and internal metrics. In October, Clearco launched a tool that would pre-purchase a company’s inventory directly from suppliers, and then be reimbursed as the products are sold. And in February, the company announced that it had created ClearAngel, a product similar to its 20-Minute Term Sheet, but focused on founders who generate less revenue.
Romanow said the company is working on more products this year, one of which is a buy-sell platform for e-commerce businesses. Already in use, Clearco’s acquisition marketplace – built atop its long-running network of early-stage founders – has already led to 11 deals to date.